Malaria: Overview

Malaria contributed to 435,000 deaths worldwide in 2017, according to data from the World Health Organization (WHO). In total, 219 million cases of the disease were recorded during that one year alone.

Malaria can be prevented, and it can be treated, but it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms to look out for.

The majority of cases are diagnosed in sub-Saharan Africa, but malaria is present in many more countries across the globe, including popular tourist destinations, such as Thailand and the Dominican Republic.

Cases of malaria are falling globally each year, but more work is needed to prevent the spread of malaria.

From how malaria is transmitted to how it can be prevented to symptoms to look out for, here are a few key factors you should be aware of when travelling to a country where the illness is present.

What Is Malaria?

Malaria is primarily spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes, which typically bite people at dusk and throughout the night. If a mosquito is infected with the Plasmodium parasite, the disease can pass into your bloodstream and make you seriously ill.

However, mosquitoes that bite during the day can transmit other diseases, so bite prevention methods are essential.

It is therefore vital to take steps to protect yourself against malaria to keep your risk of contracting the disease to a minimum.

How Is Malaria Transmitted?

Malaria is caused by a parasite known as Plasmodium that infects mosquitoes, causing them to pass this on to humans, when they feed on their blood during a bite.

There are five types of Plasmodium that can infect humans; the majority of people are either affected by Plasmodium falciparum (the most severe form) or Plasmodium vivax (the most common strain outside of Africa).

This parasite is only present in certain parts of the world; some countries are completely malaria-free, but there are many locations where the disease is widespread and a real danger if preventative steps aren’t taken. Check the malaria risk in the country you’re travelling to here.

Malaria symptoms can include a burning fever or chills, a throbbing headache, constant nausea and fatigue. See below for more information on the signs of malaria.

How To Prevent Malaria

There are several different steps to take to help prevent the spread of malaria:

The ABCD Approach

The ABCD approach is designed to help you to remember the most important factors in preventing and recognising malaria. ABCD stands for:

Awareness – you need to know what malaria is and the symptoms you need to be looking out for.

Bite prevention – this involves following the advice listed below. A combination of each of these approaches will help to provide you with significant protection against malaria.

Chemoprophylaxis – this is the process of taking anti-malaria tablets to help prevent the illness. This is not necessary before travelling to every country, so you need to make sure you understand your risk beforehand. A full travel health consultation can help with this.

Diagnosis – it’s vital to seek medical attention immediately if you have any concerns about potential symptoms.


Anti-Malaria Tablets

In some parts of the world, anti-malaria tablets are recommended. Check with your GP or pharmacist whether this will be necessary for you before travelling.

Taking medication before, during and after travel to a country where malaria is a risk can help to protect you against malaria.

The malaria risk profile of the country you’re visiting, and your own health history, will determine the type of anti-malaria tablet you need to take, and you can find more information on this here.

Maloff Protect (atovaquone/proguanil) is designed to be taken from one to two days before travel to an affected country right through to one week after your return. Find out more about Maloff Protect here to see if it’s the right option for you and always read the label.

Before taking anti-malaria tablets, it’s recommended that everyone undergoes a full travel health consultation to help them to fully understand their travel health risk.

Mosquito Nets

Mosquito nets can assist with malaria prevention by blocking mosquitoes from getting near your skin in the first place. Mosquito nets are usually treated with insecticide or insect repellent to begin with, and they’re designed to be hung over a door or window or around the area where you’re sleeping to keep mosquitoes at bay.

A mosquito net is especially recommended if you’re going to be sleeping in a space that isn’t air-conditioned, as these insects are attracted to heat.

What’s more, mosquito nets don’t just provide protection against malaria; they can also help to protect against other mosquito-borne diseases, such as the Zika virus, dengue fever and the West Nile virus.

Insect Repellent

While insect repellent can help to repel mosquitoes, applying it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t be bitten. If you’re not taking other precautions against malaria, you’ll still be at risk of contracting the illness, so anti-malaria tablets are still essential.

Insect repellent spray needs to be reapplied as frequently as recommended to ensure maximum protection as not all insect sprays offer the same duration of protection.

When you’re choosing an insect repellent, consider one that includes at least 20% concentration  DEET (Diethyltoluamide), as this can repel mosquitoes, discouraging them from biting you.

Malaway insect spray is a DEET-free product that’s also odourless. It contains an ingredient known as IR3535, which is proven to repel mosquitoes and other insects, such as gnats and ticks. Malaway is currently free with every purchase of Maloff Protect while stocks last. Get yours here.

Insecticides

Spraying insecticides can help to stop any mosquitoes that do enter your accommodation in their tracks, preventing them from biting you. Buy this at home and take it in your suitcase when you travel in case you can’t find any in the country you’re visiting.

Protective Clothing

Try to wear the following clothing to reduce your risk of being bitten by mosquitoes, lowering your chance of developing malaria as a result:

  • Long-sleeved tops
  • Long trousers
  • Closed-toe shoes that keep your feet covered, rather than sandals
  • A hat with a wide brim to keep mosquitoes away from your face and neck

Look for clothing made from breathable fabrics such as cotton and linen to help you to stay cool despite being covered up if you’re travelling to a hot climate where malaria may be present.

Screens, Fans and Air Conditioning

Mosquitoes are drawn to heat, so keeping your accommodation as cool as possible by putting screens up at the windows, having an electric fan to hand and making use of any air conditioning units can help to ward them off, potentially preventing you from getting bitten.

Be Wary of Bite Prevention Myths

Some people believe that eating garlic or taking vitamin B tablets can help to prevent mosquito bites, but there is no concrete scientific evidence to suggest this. Taking anti-malaria tablets and following other bite prevention methods will be much more effective.

What are the Symptoms of Malaria?

If you’ve been to a country where malaria was present, you need to look out for these possible signs of malaria over the next 12 months:

  • High fever
  • Cold chills
  • Persistent headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Sweats
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Persistent cough

Malaria symptoms typically appear within seven to 18 days, but the Plasmodium parasite can multiply in your body and infect your red blood cells over weeks or even months.

If you notice any of these potential malaria symptoms, seek medical advice immediately. If your symptoms turn out to be unrelated to malaria, you’ll have peace of mind; if you do receive a diagnosis, you’ll be able to start receiving the best possible treatment straight away.

Maloff Protect is an over-the-counter anti-malaria tablet that could help to prevent the disease. Find out more about whether Maloff Protect is right for you here.